420. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of agencies, quangos or other bodies within, funded by or established by her Department which have been scrapped, merged or reduced since this Government was formed; the amount saved in each case; the reduction in staff as a result; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1018/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The details (since 2011) of the merger, reform or abolition of Agencies/associated bodies under the remit of my Department are outlined below.
Legal Aid Board
Responsibility for the administration of three ad-hoc Criminal Legal Aid Schemes was transferred to the Legal Aid Board.
Garda Station Legal Advice Scheme
The Scheme provides that where a person is detained in a Garda station for the purpose of the investigation of an offence and s/he has a legal entitlement to consult with a solicitor and the person's means are insufficient to enable him/her to pay for such consultation, such consultations with solicitors will be paid for by the State. Responsibility for the administration of the Scheme was transferred to the Legal Aid Board on 1 October 2011.
Legal Aid Custody Issues Scheme
This Scheme provides payment for legal representation in the High Court and the Supreme Court for certain types of cases not covered by civil legal aid or the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme namely (i) Habeas Corpus Applications, (ii) Supreme Court Bail Motions, (iii) Judicial Reviews, (iv) Extradition Applications and European Arrest Warrants and (v) High Court Bail Motions. Responsibility for the administration of the Scheme was transferred to the Legal Aid Board on 1 June 2012.
Criminal Assets Bureau Legal Aid Scheme
The Scheme is applicable to persons who are respondents and/or defendants in any court proceedings brought by, or in the name of, the Criminal Assets Bureau including court proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996, the Revenue Acts or the Social Welfare Acts and applications made by the Director of Public Prosecutions under Section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994. Responsibility for the administration of the Scheme was transferred to the Legal Aid Board on 1 January 2014.
It is proposed that the administration of the main Criminal Legal Aid Scheme will be transferred to the Legal Aid Board on foot of new legislation which is currently being drafted. This move will be in keeping with the international model for the delivery of legal aid and advice services and will achieve a more dedicated focus to the management and delivery of Criminal Legal Aid. It would be premature at present to commit to a date for the transfer of the scheme.
Family Mediation Service
In addition, the Board took on responsibility for the Family Mediation Service in November 2011 which had been under the auspices of the Family Support Agency up to that point. A key reason for this transferring was to improve the synergies between the State funded family mediation services and the State funded civil legal aid services (most of the demand for legal services is in the area of family law). Improving the synergies will be for the benefit of the customer and will help move away from a ‘litigation first’ approach that may on occasion be too common. There are very positive signs which include the initiative set up in 2011 operating from the District Court in Dolphin House involving a co-location of the Courts with a family mediation service and a law centre. This has proved very successful and was put on a permanent footing in 2014. Similar initiatives are now operating from Cork, Naas, Limerick, Clonmel and Nenagh. Integration of the Family Mediation Service into the Legal Aid Board has also meant an increase in the referrals from Law Centres to mediation in appropriate cases.
Merger of the Property Registration Authority, Valuation Office and Ordnance Survey Ireland
The merger of the Property Registration Authority, Valuation Office and Ordnance Survey Ireland has been mandated by the Government under the Agency Rationalisation Programme. A Project Board, comprising senior representatives of the three Departments concerned along with the Chief Executive Officers of the three Agencies, is overseeing the merger. The CEO Designate of the merged body which is to be named Tailte Éireann, was appointed from 1 July 2013. It is anticipated that Ministerial responsibility for the Valuation Office and Ordnance Survey Ireland will be transferred to the Minister for Justice and Equality in due course. I can also advise that the General Scheme of a Bill will be brought to Government in early 2015.
Dissolution of the Commissioners for Charitable Donations and Bequests
The Charities Regulatory Authority, which is an independent regulatory body for the charities sector, was established on 16 October 2014, under the Charities Act 2009. This Act also provided for the dissolution of the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests and the consequential transfer of their statutory functions to the new Authority. As the work of the former Commissioners, which related to supporting the trustees of charities in carrying out their functions in accordance with the Charities Acts 1961 and 1973 will continue under the new Authority, there have been no savings or staffing reductions arising from this change.
Dissolution of the International Commission on Decommissioning
The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) was responsible for overseeing the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons. It was established by an agreement between the Irish and British Governments, signed on 26 August 1997, and by legislation enacted in the two jurisdictions. It was dissolved on 31 March 2011. The outturn for the Commission's last full year of operation 2010 was €594,000.
Dissolution of the Independent Monitoring Commission
The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) was responsible for monitoring and reporting on paramilitary activity across Ireland and also for monitoring the security normalisation measures undertaken by the British Government in Northern Ireland. It was dissolved on 31 March 2011. The outturn for the Commission's last full year of operation 2010 was €426,000.
Merger of the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Equality Authority
The Human Rights Commission and Equality Authority have been merged to establish a new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) to promote human rights and equality issues in a more efficient, effective and coherent way. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 was signed into law by the President on the 27 July 2014. The IHREC was established on 1 November 2014.
The administrative savings anticipated as a consequence of the merger - estimated at some €500,000 - have been retained by agreement by IHREC to support its core work. In addition, the approved budget for the IHREC for 2014 was €6,299,000 which represented a €2m increase approximately on the 2013 allocation, with an interim staff complement of 47, to ensure the new Commission has adequate resources to meet its mandate and is well placed to be successful in its forthcoming application to the UN to obtain re-accreditation as Ireland’s recognised National Human Rights Institution.
The Equality Tribunal now falls under the aegis of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation with effect 1 January 2013 and will become part of the new Workplace Relations Commission once established. The Commission will also include the Labour Relations Commission, the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the National Employment Rights Authority.
Abolition of the Prisons Authority Interim Board
The Prisons Authority Interim Board was abolished on 26 July 2011. The amount saved was in excess of €100,000 per annum.
Garda Síochána Complaints Board
Finally, the Deputy may wish to note that the Garda Síochána Complaints Board has been operating for some time with reduced staff and now that all of the cases involving the Board have concluded, arrangements are being made to dissolve the Board.